In 1996 a new craze broke out among the children here in the US. Pokemon (a contraction of the words Pocket Monster) had already created a frenzy in its native Japan by the time the dubbed version of the cartoon, and the rest of the media blitz arrived here. Encompassing video games, card games, a cartoon, and movies, Pokemon became a huge success here as well. In 1997 another Japanese import arrived on our shores. Seen mostly as a knock off and trying to cash in on the Pokemon craze, Digimon (short for Digital Monsters) was able to carve its own niche and gain a fan following of its own, but never reached the soaring heights of Pokemon, and though its predecessor never really disappeared and has returned with a new show, Digimon is not to be deterred and has a new show airing later this year, but for now I’m reviewing the boxed sets from the first two seasons.
“Digimon Adventures” as it came to be known follows the exploits of a chosen group of children referred to as the DigiDestined. Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Joe, Mimi and Matt’s younger brother T.K. are whisked away to the Digital world, a fantasy world where intelligent monsters known as Digimon dwell, after finding cellphone-like devices called Digivices. Here they meet their partner Digimon and set off on an adventure to save this strange new world of their newfound friends. I watched this show at age 18 and was still able to truly enjoy it. Whereas Pokemon (game and show) is pretty much glorified pet battling with some lessons to be taught, Digimon is an adventure story about friendship, courage, hard choices, maturity, team work and forgiveness among a few other things. What stood out for me with this show was that it had a point. Sure it was made to capitalize on a craze, but the writing elevated it to an endearing show about friends doing what was right in the face of danger and standing by each other. This really shows in the transformations of the monsters, which actually take place according to the emotional state of their partner. For example when the Digimon’s human partner feels the need to protect the people they care about, the Digimon digivolves (digitally evolves) into a fighting monster able to protect people.
The show never strays far from the formula of the group moving from place to place, freeing imprisoned or mind controlled Digimon, and trying to save their world, and isn’t above some very kiddie moments but it is after all made for children. Even with those moments there is still something very endearing about the show and I can safely say it’s the characters and their interaction and friendship. There is someone for everyone to relate to in the show, and new characters show up in the second season with a new group of DigiDestined, who are in some ways mentored by the original group. They don’t give us a new cast, they expand the one we’ve grown to care about.
Digimon Adventure 01 (Season 1) is 36 episodes, and encompasses a few different arcs. I was only given the second half (18 episodes over 3 discs) but remember a bit of the first half from when I watched it. This season is where everything kicks off and by the end an eighth child is added to the group. I won’t spoil who but it leads right into the final stages of the season. The show is still fun and as good as I remembered.
Digimon Adventures 02 (Season 2) begins a new adventure, with new DigiDestined with new leader Davis, Yolei, Cody, and returning younger siblings Kari and T.K. who have to defeat the new Digimon Emperor who is controlling all the newly freed Digimon. New digivolutions are discovered, new enemies arrive, and new battles are fought, all the while two worlds become more intertwined. Halfway through a twist changes up the status quo, and things kick into high gear before tying everything up neatly. The set is 36 episodes over 8 discs, and comes with a guide showing all the characters and their Digimon.
Digimon continued for two more season after this but each show was its own universe and these two are the only interconnected seasons. What I really liked was that when the second season picked up some time had passed and seeing the original cast older and more mature and passing knowledge on to their replacements was great and heartfelt. This show is much more than a cash in on toys, it was a well done story with heart. So grab your Digivice and transport yourself to the Digital World for a rousing adventure.